Record Store Day has once again come and gone. And while Mark Smotroff found lots of goodies this year at the event, it still isn't clear to me whether it represents a new direction with lots of room for expansion and growth or merely the last hurrah of a dying medium...and depending on what you read you could conclude one or the other, but maybe it's both...
One way to figure out which it might be is to look at what were the big sellers on Record Store Day were, since we can begin to infer WHO bought records by WHAT sort of records they bought...
The top-selling albums on Record Store Day were, according to Digital Music News were the following:
1. Grateful Dead - Warfield: San Francisco, California, October 9th, 1980 / October 10th, 1980
2. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks: Test Pressing
4. Greta Van Fleet, From the Fires - 2017
5. Pink Floyd, A Saucerful of Secrets
6. Fleetwood Mac, The Alternate Fleetwood Mac
7. Prince, His Majesty's Pop Life / The Purple Mix Club
8 (TIE). Pearl Jam, Live at Easy Street
8 (TIE). Weezer (Teal Album)
10. The Doors, London Fog: May, 1966
But the top ten selling singles, according to Billboard were:
1. The Rolling Stones, She's a Rainbow
2. Death Grips, Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix)
3. Madonna, La Isla Bonita (Super Mix)
4. Cheech & Chong, Up In Smoke
5. Madonna, True Blue (Super Club Mix)
6. Julien Baker, Red Door/Conversation Piece
7. High On Fire, Bat Salad
8. Anderson .Paak, Bubblin'
9. Bad Religion, My Sanity
10. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody/I'm In Love With My Car
And if you go further down the singles list to the next 20, things get even more interesting:
11. Joe Strummer, The Rockfield Studio Tracks
12. David Bowie/Marlene Dietrich, Revolutionary Song/Just a Gigolo
13. Lord Huron featuring Phoebe Bridges, The Night We Met
14. Menzingers, No Penance
15. Courtney Barnett, Everybody Here Hates You
16. Czarface, Double Dose of Danger
17. Fela Kuti and Roy Ayers, Music of Many Colours
18. Iggy Pop, The Villagers
19. Benjamin Gibbard, Me and Magdalena
20. Dr. Dre, Nuthin' But a "G" Thang
First, notice the dates of the album original releases in the Digital Music News' list - except for the 2017 Greta Von Fleet release, most were "back catalog;" meaning they were released (and re-released) before and have been "in the can" in some cases more than 30 years! Also, the vast majority, including that recent Greta Van Fleet, could be categorized as "Dad Rock," meaning they appeal primarily to an older demographic. And except for the Prince "club mix" I seriously doubt any of these discs will see any spin time in a contemporary dance club.
But when we go to the tops singles on the Billboard list, especially in the bottom ten, we find lots of releases that are aimed primarily at dance clubs, DJs, and others who like to shake a bit of booty, and most probably aren't over 40...
When you examine the demographics of these top-selling Record Store Day album releases you can see they were focused at more mature music lovers who listen to older rock forms. Except for Greta's boys, there's no performer on this list under 30...and probably the same can be said for the vast majority of the purchasers as well.
So we have an almost partisan divide of musical fan types attracted to Music Store Day's offerings - young singles buyers and older album purchasers, which is not unlike the divide seen on streaming platforms between album and singles buyers in various musical genres.
I suspect that Record Store Day will continue as a special yearly event in some form well into the next decade, but in my humble opinion, to accomplish this the top selling albums will need to shift more toward the musical tastes of MSD's younger participants.
And if you managed to snag one of the Dylan Blood on the Tracks "Test Pressings" congratulations! I am looking forward to hearing it someday...